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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

WPS Weekly by Rob Penner

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WPS Weekly – Tuesday, June 2

by Rob Penner, Director of Communications for Women's Professional Soccer

League Standings

TEAM W L T GF GA PTS
Los Angeles Sol 6-1-2 11 2 20
Washington Freedom 3-2-3 15 15 12
Boston Breakers 3-3-2 10 11 11
FC Gold Pride 3-5-1 9 13 10
Chicago Red Stars 2-3-2 6 6 8
Saint Louis Athletica 2-3-2 6 8 8
Sky Blue FC 2-4-2 6 8 8

Week 10

Los Angeles 2, Saint Louis 0
Washington 3, FC Gold Pride 1
Sky Blue FC 2, Boston Breakers 1

Weekend Report

Kendall Fletcher

Three games and three victories for the home sides in Week 10 of WPS. The Los Angeles Sol pushed their lead in the WPS Standings to eight points – their largest margin of the season – as they defeated Saint Louis. The Washington Freedom extended its unbeaten streak to five games with a 3-1 win over FC Gold Pride and now stands second in the league. Sky Blue FC notched its first win under Interim Head Coach Kelly Lindsey, returning to New Jersey for their first game at home since April 11 and their first game at Yurcak Field, Rutgers University.

While the league reaches the midway point of its 20-week season, teams will play more matches in the second half of the summer, as midweek matches begin this Wednesday with Los Angeles taking on Chicago at The Home Depot Center for the first-ever midweek WPS game.

Los Angeles Sol 2, Saint Louis Athletica 0

The Los Angeles Sol defeated the Saint Louis Athletica, 2-0, on a chilly and cloudy Saturday afternoon at The Home Depot Center. With the victory, the Sol improves its record to 6-1-2 and remains atop the WPS Standings with 20 points, while the Athletica drops to 2-3-2 and is tied for fifth position among the seven teams.

The Sol had the first real chance of the game in the 25th minute, when a lofted ball from Martina Franko found Camille Abily just outside the six-yard box, but the French midfielder mis-hit her volley and it went right into the waiting hands of Athletica goalkeeper Hope Solo.

The Athletica nearly broke the scoreless deadlock themselves in the 32nd minute when Angie Woznuk played Eniola Aluko through behind the Sol defense, but her effort could not get past Sol ‘keeper Karina LeBlanc.

The Sol finally got on the board ten minutes before the half when Shannon Boxx lofted a cross into the penalty area from the left wing that Marta got her head to, playing the ball to Abily waiting at the far post. Abily calmly collected the ball and put it in the roof of the net past an on-rushing Solo for the 1-0 lead, her third of goal of the season and second in two weeks.

The hosts doubled their advantage in the 50th minute when Boxx waited patiently for, and then drilled home, a cross from Han Duan. Solo stood flat footed on her line as the ball zipped past her and into the goal.

Neither team capitalized on any of their chances for the remainder of the game and the home side trotted off the pitch with a 2-0 victory.

“It’s good to win, we created a lot of opportunities,” said Sol head coach Abner Rogers. “We worked on a lot of movement and getting the ball to Marta. We did a fantastic job defending in our backline, as well as our midfield.”

“We just seemed like we couldn’t get things going,” said Athletica captain Lori Chalupny. “There were a lot of errant passing that was killing our attack at times. I think it was a frustrating game. I never felt like we got up to our potential for any period of time. And you can’t play like that against the top team in the league.”

Washington Freedom 3, FC Gold Pride 1

The Maryland SoccerPlex was filled with screaming youth soccer players and their families, as well as the US Women’s National Team Head Coach Pia Sundhage, who was in attendance. Taking on the FC Gold Pride (3-5-1), the Washington Freedom (3-2-3) did not disappoint the home crowd, winning 3-1 in one of the team’s strongest performances of the season.

Although Freedom star Abby Wambach struggled to get involved in the game early, Lisa DeVanna was active along the left flank making probing runs through the defense and posing a dangerous scoring threat. The Freedom got on the scoreboard in the 15th minute. Defender Cat Whitehill made a long run down the right flank and crossed a low dangerous ball into the six-yard box that was deflected in for an own goal by the Pride’s Kristen Graczyk.

The Pride almost evened the score a minute later on a shot from close range by Pride forward Christine Sinclair that sailed over the crossbar.

In the 22nd minute the Freedom would double their tally when DeVanna produced a chance from nothing, receiving a pass from midfielder Sonia Bompastor and pushing the ball through to herself and past a central defender. She touched it around on-rushing Pride goalie Nicole Barnhart and tapped it in for an easy finish.

In the 32nd minute, Wambach was taken down outside the area, setting up a dangerous free kick. After a bit of deception, the ball was rolled to Sonia Bompastor, who stopped the ball for center back Whitehill, who blasted a shot past Pride net minder Barnhart for a 3-0 lead.

The beginning of the second half saw the Pride take control as they fought to get back into the game. The Freedom lacked much of the assertiveness going forward that had gotten them their three goal cushion and had to absorb the Pride’s pressure throughout the second half. This pressure eventually got the Pride on the board in the 57th minute, when a Tiffeny Milbrett cross found Christine Sinclair, who nodded home the first goal for FC Gold.

But the California side could not put any more in the back of the net and Washington earned its second win over FC Gold Pride this season.

Sky Blue FC 2, Boston Breakers 1

With seven weeks gone by since its last home appearance, Sky Blue FC made an impressive return to New Jersey with a 2-1 victory over the Boston Breakers. Natasha Kai and Kacey White scored goals as Sky Blue FC celebrated its debut match at Rutgers University's Yurcak Field in front of 3,493 fans. Sky Blue FC doubled its win total with the victory improving to 2-4-2, while the Breakers fell to 3-3-2.

Playing under Interim Head Coach Kelly Lindsey for the second game, Sky Blue FC came out energized in front of the home crowd and didn't waste any time taking control of the game. Less than four minutes into the game, Kai fired up the fans with her second goal of the season.

Meghan Schnur played a ball behind and Kai beat the trap up the left side, cutting past a defender in the box before beating Breakers keeper Kristin Luckenbill to the near post.

After Boston’s Kelly Smith evened the score on a mistake by Sky Blue FC keeper Jenni Branam, White scored the eventual game winner in the 29th minute off a nifty flick with her back to the goal from 15 yards out.

In the second half, each team had one good chance but neither found the back of the net. In the 53rd minute, Boston took a quick free kick just outside the box on the left as Angela Hucles fed Lilly, but Branam was there to stone the veteran with a two-fisted save at the near post. In the 70th minute, a Sky Blue FC counter attack left Heather O'Reilly free inside the box but Scott flew in at the last second to stuff O'Reilly's shot.

“This is a different team,” said Sky Blue FC captain Christie Rampone after the game. “We had a great week of practice and had a lot of fun today in the locker room. There was a lot of emotion going on, but at the end of the day, we focused on soccer and we enjoyed it and you could see the passion on the field today.”

“I don't think we were real good defensively today,” said Boston head coach Tony DiCicco. “Sky Blue FC attacked our back line well and scored two good goals.”

Line Up Notables

Boston Breakers: Kelly Smith moved up to the top of the scoring ranks with five goals after knocking in a misplayed ball by Sky Blue FC goalkeeper, Jenni Branam. Smith exited the match in final minutes of the first half, replaced by Maggie Tomecka, with a knee injury. Smith’s injury will be checked out in Boston, but initial reports are the injury does not appear to be too serious. Forward Jennifer Nobis subbed in for Amy Rodriguez at half and got into her first match of the season.

FC Gold Pride: In the second own-goal of the WPS season, a low cross deflected off defender Kristen Graczyk resulting in the first goal of the game for the Washington Freedom. Center back, Carrie Dew, received two yellow card cautions resulting in a red card ejection from the match in the 83rd minute, the second red in WPS play. The competitive forward line-up saw Tiffeny Milbrett and Adriane start over teammates Tiffany Weimer and Eriko Arakawa. Christine Sinclair scored her third goal this season.

Los Angeles Sol: The Sol earned their 8th shutout this season pushing their current standings lead to eight points over the Washington Freedom. Camille Abily secured her third goal of the season. Midfielder McCall Zerboni subbed in for Brittany Bock in the 86th minute, but has only played five minutes this season. While Marta did not score this weekend, she impacted the frontline by recording her second assist.

Saint Louis Athletica: Former Los Angeles Sol players, Christie Welsh and Kendall Fletcher are earning minutes with the Saint Louis side after not receiving much playing time on the west coast. Eniola Aluko, the only forward on Saint Louis to score, had a close chance in the 32nd minute, but her opportunities could not get by Sol ‘keeper Karina LeBlanc.

Sky Blue FC: In Sky Blue FC’s second win this season, Natasha Kai found her rhythm and scored in the fourth minute of play – the second fastest goal recorded in WPS. Megan Schnur grabbed both assists in the match for her first on record this season, while Kacey White netted her first goal this season on a chipped ball over Boston’s ‘keeper, Kristin Luckenbill.

Washington Freedom: Forward Lisa De Vanna posted her third goal of the season, while defender Cat Whitehill headed in her second. Sonia Bompastor took the top spot in league leading assists with four as she assisted two of the Freedom’s goals on Sunday. Joanna Lohman returned to play in the 76th minute after serving a one game suspension.

Quotables From Notables

A few words from players and coaches…

"I missed two goals before in the game so I am happy I scored," said Los Angeles Sol forward Camille Abily. "We tried to possess the ball more and it resulted in my goal."

“I told [Natasha] Kai to have some freedom, enjoy it and get after it and show us her passion and spark that she used to show in the fans,” said Sky Blue FC interim head coach Kelly Lindsey. “I thought she came out and did great today. It was a tribute to her to release herself and play as hard as she could."

Maggie Tomecka, Yael Averbuch

“This is a different team,” said Sky Blue FC captain Christie Rampone. “We had a great week of practice and had a lot of fun today in the locker room There was a lot of emotion going on but at the end of the day, we focused on soccer and we enjoyed it and you could see the passion on the field today.

“This was a difficult loss especially when we gave two goals up for them,” said FC Gold Pride head coach Albertin Montoya. “You can’t give anyone two goals in this league, it’s very difficult to come back from that. I’m very proud of our team, they came out in the second half and played really well, created plenty of chances to get back in the game and scored a very good goal. It’s difficult when things aren’t going your way.”

WPS Player of the Week: Week 10
Shannon Boxx; Lory Chalupny
Los Angeles Sol midfielder Shannon Boxx has been selected WPS's Player of the Week for Week 10 after scoring a goal and assisting another in the first-place Sol's 2-0 victory over visiting Saint Louis Athletica. Boxx, a U.S. national team standout and WPS's premier holding midfielder, also played a pivotal role on defense as L.A. (6-1-2) notched its eighth shutout in nine games to open an eight-point lead in the standings.

Boxx is the fourth Sol player to receive Player of the Week honors, joining Aya Miyama (Week 1), Marta (Week 2) and Aly Wagner (Week 4).

Week 1: Aya Miyama (Los Angeles Sol)
Week 2: Marta (Los Angeles Sol)
Week 3: Kelly Smith (Boston Breakers)
Week 4: Aly Wagner (Los Angeles Sol)
Week 5: Abby Wambach (Washington Freedom)
Week 6: Sonia Bompastor (Washington Freedom)
Week 7: Lori Chalupny (Saint Louis Athletica)
Week 8: Christine Sinclair (FC Gold Pride)
Week 9: Jillian Loyden (Saint Louis Athletica)
Week 10: Shannon Boxx (Los Angeles Sol)

Note: Weeks 1-2 selected by The Soccer Magazine; weeks 3-9 selected by North American Soccer Reporters panel.

May Player of the Month

Voting for WPS Player of the Month begins for fans at http://fancorner.womensprosoccer.com/. The winners are selected by fans (33%), media (33%) and teams (33%). The nominees come from the WPS Players of the Week. Write-in votes are welcome. The league will announce the WPS Player of the Month for May on Friday, June 5.

Goals by the Numbers

Top Scorers – Boston Breakers’ Kelly Smith (5), Los Angeles Sol’s Marta (4)

Goals by Team – Washington Freedom (15), Los Angeles Sol (11), Boston Breakers (10), FC Gold Pride (9), Chicago Red Stars (6), Saint Louis Athletica (6), Sky Blue FC (6)

Total Goals – 63 goals scored since WPS Inaugural Match on March 29, 2009 with an average of 2.25 goals per game.

The team who scores first has won 84 %, lost 0 %, and tied 16 % of games. No team has come back from down a goal to win a WPS game.

Quickest Goal in League Play: Kelly Smith in 2nd minute of play, Boston Breakers vs. Los Angeles Sol (5/2/09)

Quickest back-to-back goals by one team: 2 goals in 3 minutes – 42 minute, 45 minute – from Marta in Los Angeles Sol vs. Sky Blue FC match (4/5/09)

Most Goals in One Game by one team: 4, Washington Freedom 4-3 FC Gold Pride (4/26/09) and Chicago Red Stars 4-0 Boston Breakers (4/25/09)

Most Goals in One Game by both teams: 7, Washington Freedom 4-3 FC Gold Pride (4/26/09)

Most Goals in a Game by a player: 2, Marta (Los Angeles Sol – 4/5/09), Abby Wambach (Washington Freedom – 4/26/09), Daniela (Saint Louis Athletica – 5/3/09), Sonia Bompastor (Washington Freedom – 5/3/09)

Penalty Kick Rates: 33% success rate, 2 (Camille Abily 1/1, Kelly Smith 1/1) out of 6 attempted.

Current Longest Scoring Drought: 308 minutes over 5 weeks, Chicago Red Stars

Sky Blue FC Relieves Ian Sawyers of Duties as Head Coach & General Manager

Sky Blue FC of Women's Professional Soccer announced last Thursday that Ian Sawyers was relieved of his duties as Head Coach and General Manager. This follows the announcement on Saturday, May 23, of Sawyers' indefinite suspension from both positions.

"The disagreements between the coach, team, and management made it impossible to move forward successfully," said Thomas Hofstetter, CEO and President of Sky Blue Soccer, the parent company of Sky Blue FC. "We need to maintain the goals, and the atmosphere that is most conducive for our team, and be able to focus on building the league. Consequently, we felt this move was necessary."

Ball from First WPS Goal goes on Display at Soccer Hall of Fame

ONEONTA, NY – The National Soccer Hall of Fame has placed the ball that was scored in the first goal in Women’s Professional Soccer history on exhibit. Located within the Celebrating Women in Soccer exhibition, the stand-alone display includes the custom-made Puma Inaugural Match ball, the line-up sheets from the game plus a photograph of the first goal and a text panel that describes the action.

“We are proud to share this historical moment with the National Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum,” WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci said. “This ball and these line-ups represent just the beginning of Women’s Professional Soccer in the United States. We look forward to many more signature WPS moments and many more opportunities to make history in women’s soccer.”

Sol-Red Stars Match June 3 to be Webcast on www.LosAngelesSol.com

The Los Angeles Sol announced Monday that the club’s next home game, this Wednesday, June 3 against the Chicago Red Stars will be webcast on the team’s official home page – www.LosAngelesSol.com. This will be the team’s first-ever live webcast of a game.

Comcast to cover FC Gold Pride-Chicago Red Stars on June 7

Comcast SportsNet will broadcast the remaining home-and-home series between FC Gold Pride and the Chicago Red Stars this season, beginning with this weekend’s contest on June 7 at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific. Announcers for the games will be seasoned soccer play-by-play announcer Dean Linke and former WUSA star Danielle Slaton. For more information and broadcast times, visit www.csnbayarea.com and www.csnchicago.com.

WPS Disciplinary Rulings

San Francisco, CA (May 28, 2009) – Following an appeal, WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci today upheld the fine and 2-game suspension of Christine Latham imposed by the Disciplinary Committee for an elbow thrown that occurred in the 51st minute of the Washington at Boston match played on Sunday, May 17. That incident resulted in a yellow card from the referee. Latham missed the Breakers' game against Sky Blue FC on May 31 at Yurcak Field and is not eligible to play against Saint Louis Athletica on Jun 14 at Harvard Stadium as a result of the suspension.

The Weekly Forecast

Wednesday, June 3

Los Angeles Sol vs. Chicago Red Stars (10:30 pm ET)
Home Depot Center, Carson, CA

The first weeknight match in WPS history pits the Los Angeles Sol vs. the Chicago Red Stars at The Home Depot Center on Wednesday. One month ago, this looked like a match-up of WPS titans, but in the last half of May, Los Angeles has won three straight to extend their lead in the standings and the Chicago Red Stars have lost three in a row to drop into a tie for fifth. Still, the match-up sets up an intriguing contest between two of the league’s best keepers in Karina LeBlanc for Los Angeles and Caroline Jönsson of Chicago.

LeBlanc has seven shutouts on the season to Jönsson’s three and the Sol have given up just 2 goals in nine games so far on the year. While Jönsson has given up only six goals, her offensive support has been anemic with a 308 minute scoring drought dating back to Brittany Klein’s second half goal against Boston on April 25. Chicago needs more contributions from Brazilian international Cristiane especially while midfield star Carli Lloyd is out due to an injury sustained training with the U.S. National Team that forced her to miss the May 25 friendly against Canada. Los Angeles, meanwhile, has a new- found scoring outlet in French star Camille Abily, who has notched two goals in two weeks. In fact, eight of the Sol’s 11 goals this season have come from their internationals. Los Angeles looks try and put together the first four-game winning streak in WPS history.

Sunday, June 7

Saint Louis Athletica vs. Sky Blue FC (4 pm ET)
Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park, Fenton, MO

A key match-up between fifth-place teams in order to keep pace with playoff positions No. 2-4 in the WPS Standings. The Sky Blue FC vs. Saint Louis Athletica match-up is the last game this season in which two teams will meet for the first time in WPS play. Sky Blue FC is coming off an inspired performance in Week 10 with two excellent goals in their 2-1 victory over Boston. Saint Louis had their four game unbeaten streak broken by Los Angeles at The Home Depot Center last weekend and begin play at their new home stadium –Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park in Fenton, MO.

Saint Louis has found an opportunistic scorer in Eniola Aluko in the past few weeks but continue to look to Lori Chalupny as their leader to direct the offense. Sky Blue FC had several offensive weapons on display against Boston including speedy runs from Natasha Kai, Kacey White and Kelly Parker, a second half substitute. Both teams have scored the fewest goals in the league with six each, a stat that both will be looking to improve as they face-off in Saint Louis. Look for some excellent midfield battles between Chalupny and fellow UNC alums Heather O’Reilly and Yael Averbuch of Sky Blue FC.

Los Angeles Sol vs. Washington Freedom (6 pm ET – FSC)
Home Depot Center, Carson, CA

A rematch of the WPS Inaugural Match on March 29 should be an exciting showdown. Regardless of what happens in the early game on Sunday, the Freedom will enter the game in second-place in the WPS table, ready to take on a dominant Los Angeles Sol team that has led the WPS Standings since their 2-0 defeat of the Freedom in Week 1. In fact, the Sol’s advantage over the second place team in the WPS standings has only grown in the past few weeks as they continue to distance themselves from the pack as the team to beat.

With one victory over the Freedom already this year, another victory would assure the Sol of any head-to-head tiebreak advantage over Washington in their three-game season series were they to finish level on points. But the Freedom are a new team since starting the year 0-2-1. They have a new keeper in Canadian international Erin McLeod and have found leadership from Cat Whitehill, playmaking from Sonia Bompastor and possession-minded soccer from Lori Lindsey beyond the expected contributions from star Abby Wambach. Perhaps more importantly, they’ve shored up the defense. After giving up 12 goals in the first five games, the Freedom have given up only one goal per game in the past three.

FC Gold Pride vs. Chicago Red Stars (8 pm ET – Comcast-check local listings)
Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara, CA

A pivotal game for both teams with the potential to leap frog idle Boston in the standings and the first of several regional television games for WPS on Comcast SportsNet. FC Gold Pride has dropped two straight coming into the weekend, while Chicago struggled in the month of May, losing all three contests after starting the year 2-0-2. The previous match-up between these two was a poorly-played affair at Toyota Park with a first half goal by Christine Sinclair the difference for FC Gold Pride.

FC Gold will be without the services of defender Carrie Dew, whose two yellow cards in a span of 18 minutes last Sunday against Washington led to a red card and automatic one-game suspension. Chicago, meanwhile, hopes that Carli Lloyd, who is out this week with a knee laceration, will be back in time for the Sunday start. Like all WPS teams, the FC Gold Pride struggles when it gives up the first goal, going 0-5-0 when opponents score first and 3-0-1 when FC Gold scores first. Similarly, Chicago is 0-3-0 when opponents score first in games -- so a first-goal strike could be pivotal for both teams in this contest.

Off Week

The Boston Breakers are off this week.

On TV

The WPS Sunday on FSC match between the Los Angeles Sol and the Washington Freedom will air on the Fox Soccer Channel on Sunday, June 7 at 6 pm ET.

The FC Gold Pride vs. Chicago Red Stars game on Sunday, June 7 at 8pm ET will air in regional markets on Comcast SportsNet both live and delayed. For more information and times, visit www.csnbayarea.com and www.csnchicago.com or check local Comcast SportsNet listings.

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